Zipp’s race wheels were once again the most popular wheels used in Kona, HI at the Ironman World Championships (see image below). Zipp has been on top of the list for more than 10 consecutive years. There can be one simple reason for this statistic or several small reasons.
Just because something is on top of a “popularity” list doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best. There have been several instances in the bike industry where one particular item or brand is on top only to have the product lose its place as the competitors get the upper hand. 10 years ago Trek was on top of the bike count in Kona but is no longer there. 10 years ago there were far more Trek dealers than there were shops that carried triathlon specific bikes. As the sport of triathlon has grown so has the triathlete’s expectation of equipment. Many triathletes chose to switch to a triathlon specific bike as opposed to the very popular Trek road bikes. This is the number one reason we don’t see Trek on top of the bike count list but instead Cervelo, Felt, etc. It is not because Trek doesn’t make a good bike. They simply didn’t focus on a triathlon specific bike for a handful of years.
Of course many will point out that neither the men’s nor women’s winner rode Zipp wheels. This is a valid point to address. Of course Craig Alexander used to be a Zipp athlete but now rides for Shimano, which also means Shimano wheels. There is little doubt that Craig would have won on either brand wheel. And there is probably a few other brands he could have ridden to victory. His personal best bike split is not because of a wheel change as he has been on Shimano for a couple years. It is likely due to his new bike position as much as anything. He did switch bike brands just a few months ago. I won’t speculate as to why, but he is clearly riding in a different position than in years past. No matter what the position or what reasons he has for riding a particular brand of wheel, his winning has more to do with him being the best IM athlete in the world than anything else.
If Zipp wheels are the “best” and the most popular aero wheels in the sport then why aren’t all of the top pros on them? Money! Many companies in the industry pay the top athletes to represent their products and brands. If it is an equipment company, then that means using their equipment. Zipp doesn’t pay their athletes to ride their product. This leaves athletes to choose between guaranteed money from their equipment endorsements or possible prize money from using the best equipment.
For the rest of us, we need to make sure we are purchasing the best equipment that fits our needs. This holds true for bikes, wetsuits, aero helmets, and of course race wheels. For all of us at Gear West Bike & Tri, the race wheel question is the easiest of all, Zipp. We know that Zipp produces the best and most complete line of performance wheels in the industry. Most every wheel manufacturer will state their wheel is the most aerodynamic wheel. Or they will throw out static weights of their wheels. In the end, what really matters is how well the wheel performs the task for which you purchased it.
As a complete package, Zipp wheels are the best. They are the best or nearly the best in all categories: Aerodynamics, weight, stiffness, durability, bearings and hubs, etc. With Zipp addressing every aspect of a wheel, the wheels have the best overall satisfaction. They are clearly and measurably fast, light with minimal moment of inertia, and laterally stiff for excellent energy transfer while still being compliant. The hubs and bearings have always been as high quality as the US made rims they are laced into. Their rim profiles take into account that we don’t ride in a wind tunnel, but rather in the real world where the wind is constantly changing. Additionally, with Zipp’s Carbon Bridge Technology, they were able to set a new standard on impact resistance of carbon rims.
Stop in to Gear West Bike and Tri to test a set of wheels to see what Zipp wheel owners already know. We have wheels for Demo, Rental, and of course a huge selection of wheels to purchase. We stock tires, cassettes, skewers, wheel bags, brake pads, and just about everything else you might want to get the most out of your wheels.